The Real Reason EV Repairs Are So Expensive
In June this year, a Hyundai Kona rolled into a repair shop in Cheltenham, England. Humming gently, as electric vehicles do, it seemed to be running just fine. But the insurance company wasn’t ready to sign it off. The car had been in a minor collision, which had caused damage to its battery casing. Another repair shop, about an hour’s drive away, had been asked to replace the casing, but they didn’t know how.
And so, the car ended up here in Cheltenham, in front of Matt Cleevely, owner of Cleevely Motors. When he and his colleagues opened up the vehicle, they were stunned. Sure, the metal casing had a few light scratches—minor marks made by one of the car’s rear suspension arms, which had got jolted during the incident—but nothing more.
“They’d suffered very minor physical damage that neither compromised the integrity of the battery casing, nor was dangerous in any way,” says Cleevely. “I just found it massively over the top.”
He shrugged his shoulders and swapped out the casing anyway—just like the insurance company wanted. It cost £600 ($745), plus tax.
In the past three years, the number of electric cars on the road in the UK has more than doubled, to around 850,000, according to estimates from the RAC, a breakdown recovery and insurance firm. In the US this year, more than 1 million EVs will probably be sold—a potential record.
A higher number of EVs on the roads inevitably means more of them becoming involved in accidents. And yet there is relatively widespread anxiety over dinged-up batteries since they could in theory compromise the safety of the vehicle, causing electric shocks, fires, and even explosions. Fires remain extremely rare, though, and are less common on average than in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Insurers are even, in some cases, writing off entire cars just because of minor physical damage to battery casings. Sources who spoke to WIRED suggest there is a dearth of auto repair shops that know how to properly assess batteries, let alone repair them. “There’s far too much scaremongering across our industry about EVs,” says Cleevely. “The problem is the lack of understanding.”
And some manufacturers are making things extra difficult for mechanics. Parts can be tricky to get hold of, and there’s often little or no official information explaining how to repair certain EV battery units. That means such units might just get replaced at an eye-watering cost. Easily north of £10,000 ($12,430) for some models.